- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida health regulators are dropping their push to fine three Planned Parenthood centers, saying such action would be redundant now that the governor has signed a law that puts new restrictions on abortions and prohibits any state money from going to the clinics.

Court documents show the Agency for Health Care Administration last Friday asked an administrative judge to dismiss complaints first filed last year against clinics located in St. Petersburg, Naples and Fort Myers.

The state alleged that the clinics had performed second-trimester abortions that violated their licenses. Planned Parenthood representatives have maintained that abortions were performed during the first trimester and that regulators tried to change the definition to justify an investigation ordered by Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott ordered the inspections of 16 Florida clinics last summer after videos surfaced showing organization officials discussing fetal organ research. State investigators did not find any evidence that Planned Parenthood in Florida purchased or sold human organs or tissue.

Barbara Zdravecky, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said in a statement Monday that the decision to drop the complaints six months later shows the charges were “politically motivated.”

“These actions by AHCA make clear they had no evidence and they knew it,” Zdravecky said. “Despite this, AHCA filed the charges and caused Planned Parenthood to devote considerable time and resources to frivolous and unwarranted charges when such resources could have been devoted to providing additional care and services to the Floridians who rely on Planned Parenthood every day for health care.”

Mallory McManus, a spokeswoman for AHCA, maintained that a new law made the complaints moot. Scott on Friday signed a bill that places new restrictions on abortion and prohibits state money from going to Planned Parenthood. The bill also changed the trimester definitions.

“We will continue to hold Planned Parenthood and all Florida clinics accountable to following the law,” McManus said in an email.

It was not entirely clear why regulators considered the previous action to fine the clinics moot - the new law does not take effect until July 1, and would not have applied to last year’s complaints. McManus also did not respond to Planned Parenthood’s statement.

Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, on Monday filed its own motion asking the administrative judge to order the state to reimburse attorney fees the organization spent defending the three clinics. The motion maintains the initial complaints were “improper” and designed to “primarily harass Planned Parenthood.”

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